From: Census2000 <Census2000(a)ccmc.org>
House Panel Considers Proposal to Count Americans Overseas;
Wisconsin Lawmakers Advocate New Rules for Counting Military
Families and Prisoners
The House Subcommittee on the Census held a hearing on June 9 to
review proposals to count all Americans living overseas in the
census and to change the way members of the armed forces stationed
in the U.S. and certain prisoners are counted. The panel heard
testimony from two Members of Congress, Census Bureau Director
Kenneth Prewitt, and several organizations advocating a count of
Subcommittee Chairman Dan Miller (R-FL) said in his opening remarks
that "all of these proposals address legitimate concerns." Rep.
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the panel's senior Democrat, said that while
Congress should consider these issues, it should do so "in a more
systematic fashion and in a time frame that allowed for proper
consideration of these ideas." Speaking generally about the three
proposals, Dr. Prewitt said: "We need to make sure that any policy
changes are consistent with the original intent of the census to
determine the 'whole number of persons in each state' for purposes
of apportionment." He said lack of sufficient time to "introduce
complex new procedures to the design" was the largest barrier to
implementing any of the new proposals at this stage of census
Counting Americans living overseas: Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), who
chairs the Committee on International Relations, testified that
failure to count private American citizens living overseas in the
census is discriminatory. He noted that the Census Bureau plans to
count members of the armed forces, civilian employees of federal
agencies, and all of their dependents stationed abroad during the
census, for congressional apportionment purposes, as it did in
1990. (Apportionment refers to dividing up the 435 seats in the
U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states based on the state
population totals compiled from the census.) The congressman said
the census should include overseas Americans because of their role
in promoting U.S. national interests around the world.
Rep. Gilman has introduced House Concurrent Resolution 129 (H. Con.
Res. 129), expressing the "sense of the Congress" that the Census
Bureau should include all overseas Americans in the 2000 census.
The resolution does not specify whether private American citizens
living abroad should be counted only for congressional apportionment
or for other purposes such as redistricting and allocating program
funds. The Bureau only needs to calculate the total population of
each state as the basis for apportionment, while the data used for
drawing political district boundaries (redistricting) requires
placing people and households in specific census blocks. Federal
programs require census data at various levels of geography to
distribute funds according to a formula or to determine program
eligibility. Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI) is the sponsor of a
companion resolution, S. Con. Res. 38.
Chairman Miller, who is a cosponsor of the Gilman resolution,
observed that Americans living and working overseas "play a key role
in advancing our national interests around the world." The chairman
said Americans overseas should be included in the census, although
we may have to lower our standards of accuracy to do so. Rep.
Miller said he supports counting this population in 2000, but that
the Census Bureau must prepare to do so in 2010 if it cannot be
ready to conduct such a count next year.
Director Prewitt suggested in his testimony that Congress commission
in-depth studies to explore the highly complex issues involved in
counting private American citizens living overseas. He noted that
previous attempts to count Americans living overseas have produced
data of unusable quality and that the Constitution does not speak to
counting the non-resident population. After meeting with advocates
of counting this population, the Bureau concluded, "it cannot
credibly enumerate the population of American citizens living
abroad," Dr. Prewitt said.
The director cited concerns about accuracy, since the Bureau does
not have reliable estimates of the overseas population to check the
progress of the count, as it does in the United States using the
master address list and independent population estimates. The
Bureau was also concerned that the voluntary nature of an overseas
count might tempt some states to mount publicity campaigns in order
to boost their populations for apportionment purposes. Dr. Prewitt
said the Bureau would need substantial additional funds for an
overseas count, as well as considerable lead times to design and
print questionnaires and to coordinate the census effort with the
State Department. He did not estimate how much a count of overseas
Americans would cost.
Dr. Prewitt distinguished the inclusion of military and federal
civilian personnel stationed overseas by noting that this population
is counted using administrative records maintained by the Defense
Department and other agencies. The Bureau plans to count overseas
military and government personnel at the home of record noted in
their personnel file, which usually refers to the place where a
person lived when he or she joined the military or federal service.
The Bureau followed this policy in 1990, after the House of
Representatives passed a bill directing the Bureau to count overseas
military personnel at their home of record for apportionment
purposes. The House had soundly defeated a proposal in 1988 to
count military personnel stationed abroad in the state where they
last resided for at least six months before shipping overseas.
The subcommittee heard testimony from the Census 2000 Coalition, as
well as from representatives of several organizations belonging to
the Coalition. Executive Director David Hamod described the
Coalition as "an ad hoc, bipartisan group dedicated to including all
Americans living and working overseas in next year's census" and
said it is comprised of "all major organizations representing U.S.
citizens and U.S. companies overseas." The individual organizations
testifying at the hearing were the Association of Americans Resident
Overseas (AARO); American Chambers of Commerce abroad and
Republicans Abroad (one witness, who also identified himself as an
officer of the American Business Council of Gulf Countries,
represented both of these organizations); Democrats Abroad; and
American Citizens Abroad. All of these groups noted that the
Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act of 1975 gave Americans living
overseas the right to vote in federal elections in the state and
congressional district in which they last resided.
Mr. Hamod of the Census 2000 Coalition listed four reasons to
include Americans abroad in the 2000 census: promoting U.S.
competitiveness, ensuring political representation for all
Americans, treating private citizens overseas in the same manner as
military and government employees, and ensuring an accurate census.
The Coalition did not specify whether it believes private citizens
abroad should be counted only for congressional apportionment or for
other purposes as well.
Mr. Hamod said the Bureau's concerns about an overseas census "are
simply red herrings" that are "a pretext to discriminate against
Americans abroad." He suggested the Bureau distribute a form
prepared by the Coalition through the Bureau's web site, U.S.
embassies and consulates, and organizations representing Americans
abroad. (Dr. Prewitt, however, chided the group for distributing a
draft questionnaire that appeared to be a Census Bureau document.)
Responses could be verified, Mr. Hamod said, using passport
numbers. Mr. Hamod concluded by saying "it is high time to overhaul
an obsolete policy that treats U.S. citizens overseas as nobodies
rather than as the valuable national asset they are."
Rep. Maloney said "she was sympathetic to the desires of overseas
Americans to be counted" but that Congress must address several key
questions first. The congresswoman said a count of all overseas
Americans would be of "questionable" accuracy because it must rely
only on voluntary participation without any procedures to follow-up
with people who don't send in a form, as enumerators usually do in
the census. She also said Congress must clarify where (for example,
last residence, legal residence, or voting residence) and for what
purposes these Americans should be included. Rep. Maloney announced
that she would introduce legislation to require a census of
Americans living overseas in 2003, to give Congress sufficient time
to consider whether to include this population in the 2010 count.
Subcommittee member Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) questioned whether an
overseas count would be reliable, given the wide ranging estimates
of how many Americans live and work abroad.
Changing residency rules for counting prisoners and military
personnel in the U.S.: At its June 9 hearing, the census
subcommittee also discussed proposals to change the way certain
prisoners and members of the armed forces stationed in the U.S. are
counted in the census.
Rep. Mark Green (R-WI) is sponsor of a bill (H.R. 1632) to require
that state prisoners be counted as residents of the state that pays
more than half of the cost of incarcerating them. The change in
counting policy is necessary, Rep. Green testified, to accommodate
the growing "practice of states leasing prison space in other
states." The congressman argued that because many federal programs
rely on census data, "the originating state will lose federal funds
to the states which are housing out-of-state prisoners temporarily."
Rep. Green noted that about 3,700 Wisconsin prisoners currently are
incarcerated in other states and said that number is expected to
grow to 10,000 by 2001. He said Wisconsin maintains a database of
its prisoners housed in other states that could be used to count
these inmates in their home state.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a member of the census subcommittee, urged
support for his bill (H.R. 2067) to count active duty military
personnel in the United States at their home of record instead of
where they are stationed on Census Day. The congressman said his
proposal did not represent a radical change from current Bureau
policy and that the Bureau has already changed its standard of usual
residence by counting military personnel stationed overseas in their
home of record state.
According to the Census Bureau's residency rules, which determine
where people are counted in the census, prisoners are counted at the
facility where they are incarcerated. Active duty members of the
armed forces are counted at the military installation or the
homeport of the ship to which they are assigned. "Usual residence
for census purposes," Director Prewitt testified, "is the place
where the person lives and sleeps most of the time." Making an
exception for certain prisoners and military personnel, he said,
might open a Pandora's box for other exceptions, such as where
college students or people receiving out-of-state medical treatment
are counted. During the 1990 census, Washington, D.C. challenged
the Bureau's practice of counting its inmates who are housed at a
prison in Lorton, Virginia, as residents of Virginia. The U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the
Bureau's policy in that case (District of Columbia v. U.S.
Department of Commerce, 789 F. Supp. 1179 (D.D.C. 1992).
Dr. Prewitt said H.R. 1632 does not address several operational
issues, such as whether out-of-state prisoners should be allocated
to a specific location in their home state and whether the proposal
covers federal prisoners, who he said are more likely to be
incarcerated out-of-state. The director said H.R. 2067 would require
a significant change to the procedures for counting stateside
military personnel. Members of the armed forces in the U.S. receive
a census form to complete on their own, as do most other residents
not living in a group facility.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney suggested that the Green and Ryan proposals
were "presumably introduced with the intent of boosting the
population totals for Wisconsin, which may lose a seat after the
2000 reapportionment." Both freshmen Wisconsin lawmakers denied that
their proposals were motivated by projections showing that the state
would lose its 9th congressional district after the 2000 census.
They said their goal is to promote an accurate census.
Ensuring the confidentiality of census responses: Our effort to
provide a thorough summary of proposals to count overseas Americans
and change certain residency rules has resulted in a lengthy News
Alert today. Therefore, we will report on concerns about the
confidentiality of citizenship data collected in the census in a
separate News Alert this week.
Congressional hearing planned: The House Subcommittee on the Census
will hold a field hearing in Racine, Wisconsin, on June 28. The
hearing, which is open to the public, will be held in the City
Council Chamber from 9:15 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Among the invited
witnesses are Governor Tommy Thompson, the mayors of Racine and
Milwaukee, and officials from Racine and Kenosha Counties.
Questions about the information contained in this News Alert may be
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information, use our web site www.census2000.org
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